Usually when discussing a concept album or a band with an ongoing narrative, you figure that theatrics aren't far behind. Mulu Lizi is a Rochester quartet that has aliens and zombies wandering in and out of its post-but-not-that-post-90's sound. The band's brooding music doesn't necessarily lend itself sonically to the walking dead and the extraterrestrial, but then again the lyrics don't try to highjack Mulu Lizi into walking boldly where no man has walked before. No pyro, no flash, just rock 'n' roll. The hooks save it from getting too out of reach.
Just a year old, the band has started work on an album with producer Zazu Pitts (Bitter Flesh Thing), and continues to rock the club scene and festival circuit around town.
The boys in the band — brothers Arthur and Chris Zimmer, Steven Mackin, and Kyle Craw — sat down to discuss the undead, the unearthly, cover songs, and diminishing Rochester crowds. An edited transcript of the interview follows.
CITY: What's a Mulu Lizi anyway?
Arthur Zimmer: Mulu Lizi is the name of a star, and means "man of fire." We play off of the name. Most of our stuff is post-apocalyptic or set in outer space.
Does that make it easier or harder to adhere to particular parameters?
Arthur Zimmer: That depends. It diverts me in a direction without tying huge emotions to it. They'll play a riff and I'll play off of that.
Steve Mackin: Instrumentally we mess around until a riff comes out, then Arthur fleshes out the arrangement.
Arthur Zimmer: And sometimes by the time we're finished that riff won't even be in there.
There's some serious rock 'n' roll riffs in your bloodline...
Arthur Zimmer: Yeah, our dad is A.D. Zimmer [Immaculate Mary, The Lou Gramm Band], so we were brought up around music.
Most kids come up playing rock music while their parents tell them to turn it down. How was it in your house, growing up?
Arthur Zimmer: He was great at what he did but he wasn't a great teacher. It would be like, "Dad, how do you do that?" "Just keep playing and it will come to you."
Chris Zimmer: Still, every day after work he goes to the gym, practices...he's like 2 percent body fat. He's crazy. He's very systematic.
What's the approach to your music?
Arthur Zimmer: With our music now, we want everything to sound different than the last song, with high dynamics.
But the Mulu Lizi sound is relatively consistent, straight-ahead hard rock.
Chris Zimmer: Our guitars sound the same. We're not all over the place.
Steven Mackin: It's not like we're playing country.
What won't you do?
Arthur Zimmer: We love creating new music. We actually like to keep the tempo up for most of our songs. We don't have any slower-type songs. We don't really like to do the ballads.
What do you do?
Arthur Zimmer: We like to keep it fun, happy, feet moving... we do have songs with slower BPMs to break things up, but we never drop off into that acoustic ballad.
Does Mulu Lizi sound like what you set out to have it sound like?
Chris Zimmer: It definitely sounds different. We're always listening for new things.
What's an ideal Mulu Lizi show?
Chris Zimmer: There needs to be people in the audience, first of all. This is a hard town to do this in.
Arthur Zimmer: I remember when we started our first band, when we were just kids, we'd play whole shows ourselves and the places would be packed and we'd get like $200 for the night. We were 16, we were nothing. We were playing like, garbage punk, my voice was horrible, but it didn't matter because people came out to shows. Even when we'd play shows at Montage Music Hall in our old band, with five bands on the bill, and there'd be like 200 people. In the last four years it's gotten depleted so much.
To what do you attribute that, television? Online porn?
Arthur Zimmer: I think people are supporting their friends but not trying to support the whole music scene. They'll see their friends play, then they'll leave.
What do you do to keep them there?
Arthur Zimmer: Coming out strong with a couple of songs quick. We stack three songs, come right in, and pound through them, then give an intro and take a second to breathe, then back into the show.
Do you think playing covers helps or hurts this situation?
Arthur Zimmer: We always stick covers in our sets. You will never hear us without at least one or two in there.
What's next for the band?
Chris Zimmer: We'll take this as far as it will go.
Perhaps all the way to Mulu Lizi.